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Grace Poe wants DICT to prove need for P300-M confidential funds

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should prove the need for P300 million confidential funds for 2024 amid its “dismal” budget utilization rate, Senator Grace Poe said Thursday.

“As recipient of the 4th highest confidential fund among all agencies, the burden is on the DICT to prove to us that this is needed. Only then will we decide to recommend their budget request to the plenary,” Poe said in a text message shared to reporters.

Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee and principal sponsor of the SIM Registration Act, made the statement after DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said they need confidential funds to go after scammers.

“With billions of pesos being lost to scams, there is indeed a pressing need to strengthen our countermeasures against scams and cybercriminals. But at the same time, we would need to study if DICT has the capability to even spend this budget,” Poe said.

Poe noted that the DICT has 32.2% budget utilization rate in 2022 which “leaves little confidence in terms of proper utilization of the fund.”

“Confidential funds were not consistently granted to DICT but we will ask the Commission on Audit to discuss with us how the P1.2 billion confidential funds were used in the past by the agency,” she said.

“During the hearing, we also expect Secretary Uy to be prepared to defend its necessity and commit to follow the guidelines,” Poe added.

Several senators, especially the minority bloc, have been questioning the confidential funds lodged in different civilian agencies under the proposed 2024 national budget.

According to GMA Integrated News Research, more government civilian agencies are now asking for confidential funds under their proposed budget for 2024

Twenty-eight agencies have formally sought confidential funds in their 2024 budget, up from the 21 offices in 2016.

The Department of Budget and Management earlier said the total amount of confidential and intelligence funds across all agencies in the proposed 2024 budget is P10.14 billion, including P4.5 billion for the Office of the President (P2.25 billion confidential and P2.31 billion intelligence fund) and P500 million for the Office of the Vice President.

A Joint Circular No. 2015-01 of the Commission on Audit (COA) identified confidential funds as allocations that civilian government agencies use for surveillance activities supporting their mandate.

This is different from the intelligence fund (IF) which is being used by the uniformed, military personnel, and intelligence practitioners in sourcing information related to national security. —Hana Bordey/KBK, GMA Integrated News